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Shoppers Are More Tolerant of Delivery Delays But Less Brand Loyal Right Now

The way people shop has changed in recent months out of necessity, but a new study by Scalefast shows that consumer expectations may have permanently shifted. As shoppers reevaluate what they need and want from brands, experts believe this could be an opportunity for businesses to invest in long-term strategy and acquire new customers.

Many e-commerce shipments have been delayed in recent weeks by strained logistics networks – and consumers are adjusting their expectations accordingly. Scalefast’s “Rebuilding Retail” study found that 45% of the 1,354 U.S. adults polled plan to be more patient of extended delivery timelines in the long-term, with 41% expecting longer customer service wait times. This provides more leeway for companies, but experts warn against slacking off in response.

“This doesn’t mean that brands should relax their standards,” said Olivier Schott, CMO at Scalefast. “In fact, brands that still have the ability to fulfill orders quickly can (and should) use that to their advantage, as a faster alternative to industry competitors – like Amazon – that have much more complicated supply chains. Overdelivering on expectations can leave a lasting impression with customers.”

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Many retailers have been focusing on the immediate needs of consumers and on reopening stores after months of disruption. But Schott recommends that businesses also use this time of lowered expectations to build out and test comprehensive systems for high-volume shopping periods, such as the holiday season.

Although tolerant of longer shipping estimates, 29% of respondents said they were anxious about not being able to find items they need or want. Specifically for holiday shopping, 17% said they would only shop online or in-store at retailers with clear procedures to handle COVID-19. In response, retailers may want to adjust both their seasonal inventory and the timeline of when those products come into store.

Best Buy employee readies a package for a customer picking up an online order at a contactless curbside pickup area, in Richfield, Minn., as businesses do their part in helping to control the spread of the coronavirus. COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or deathVirus Outbreak Minnesota Daily Life, Richfield, United States - 31 Mar 2020
New services like curbside pickup could help retailers distinguish their offerings from competitors and attract new customers.
CREDIT: Jim Mone/Shutterstock

“Introduce seasonal and holiday collections earlier, and provide a transparent delivery window and frequent tracking updates,” said Schott. “Brands also need to anticipate when and where their products will be ordered to preemptively reallocate supplies to the right markets. For example, leading into the fall season, brands can make sure warm clothing is stored in colder climates to make shipping times faster.”

The report also observed an accelerated shift towards e-commerce, which had already been growing prior to the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 28% intend to make more online purchases for the 2020 holiday season than in previous years, while 24% are more likely to purchase directly from brand websites once their respective state and national restrictions lift. For smaller businesses competing with online marketplaces such as Amazon and Walmart, this could be an opportunity to serve new customers directly.

There is also an opportunity to take business from other DTC competitors; 35% of consumers said they would now be more flexible on brand loyalty and product availability. A DTC channel is a base requirement now, said Schott, but channels like curbside pickup can also help attract new business – 35% of respondents said they would be more likely to utilize that service in the future.

“Now is the time to focus on online customer acquisition,” said Schott. “Your competitors’ previously loyal customers may be looking for a better option, and getting in front of these consumers with your unique proposition could be enough to change their minds.”

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